Breaking down 活用 and 活用形

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Castellano/Catalán - Barcelon

I've been reading about these concepts in my grammar book and also did some research but I've been unsuccessful so far to find an answer, so I was wondering if someone could say if my understanding is correct and answer to the question at the end:

I guess (because of the name too), that Japanese grammar calls 活用 the 5 groups listed below, which just indicate how a verb changes when adding 助動詞

- 五段活用
- 上一段活用
- 下一段活用
- 家業変格活用
- サ行変格活用

And then, we have the 活用形, which is a manner to refer to the 6 groups listed below, which are intermediate forms to add 助動詞 and, some of them, are also used by themselves (for example, 連用形 is used for connecting clauses or as an explanation, as you taught me here).


In some webpages I have read about a 7th one, 已然形. I have found this article in Japanese, but I just understand (more or less) the title and guess it's the classic form of 仮定形

And then, what is unclear to me is what Japanese grammar considers all these forms: -te, -rareru, -ta, -ba, ... Because sometimes, for example, I have seen the -te form written as て形, which means it is also a 活用形 ? (I couldn't find a clear answer to this on the net). When I add a 助動詞 to one of the 6 活用形 above, does this fit in a category?

Besides, mixed with all of that, come verb tenses, which I read that Japanese considers there are two: 過去 and 非過去 (I guess the kanji is this, in my book it's written in roomaji). I guess -te, -rareru, -ta, -ba, etc would fit in 非過去?, and -ta, -nakatta, etc. in 過去?

Thanks everybody in advance for bothering to answer.
  • citrustree


    Yes, there are five conjugation types (五段、上一段、下一段、カ行変格、サ行変格).

    Yes, all verbs, regardless of the conjugation type, have the six conjugated forms (活用形) that you mentioned (未然、連用、終止、連体、仮定、命令).

    Verbs conjugate depending on what comes after the verb. As you mentioned, in many cases the 助動詞 that is added to the verb determines which conjugated form (未然?、連用? etc) the verb needs to be in. Other than 助動詞, I can think of cases where 助詞, 名詞 or nothing is added to the conjugated verb.

    I’ve never heard that 已然形 is used in modern Japanese.

    -te(て形), -rareru, -ta, -ba etc are all different ways of referring to the same thing.

    The -te form is simply the 連用形 of a verb + 助詞(て).
    The -rareru form is the 未然形 of a verb + 助動詞(られる).
    The -ta form is the 連用形 of a verb + 助動詞(た).
    The -ba form is the 仮定形 of a verb + 助詞(ば).

    Regarding the tenses in Japanese, I believe what you found is correct. It’s either 現在 (非過去) or 過去. What is equivalent to the present perfect tense in English, for example, is expressed using 過去 in Japanese.

    Yes, -te, -rareru, -ba etc belong to 非過去. -ta, -nakatta etc belong to 過去. By adding 助動詞(た(だ)) to the 連用形 of a verb, you get the past tense of the verb. 過去 includes what is equivalent to the present perfect in English.

    I hope my response answers your questions.


    Castellano/Catalán - Barcelon
    Hello citrustree, thanks for replying (and to those who replied too),

    Thanks for your thorough explanation. I see my understanding was correct then. If you allow me to insist a little bit more, what is still a bit unclear to me are these small details:
    • Following your analogy of the present perfect tense and taking for example the verb to see, then have seen fits in a category called tense. Ok, in Japanese 見た fits in the general category of 過去, but there are other ---- that fit in the 過去 tense (見なかった, 見ただろう, etc). It's this word with dashes (----) what I'm looking for, it's unclear to me how Japanese calls it. It's not conjugated forms (活用形)as there are only six and 見た is not any of them. Is there a way to call the elements resulting of combining 活用形+助動詞, like 見た?
    • There are 6 活用形 in modern Japanese that are called (name + the kanji 形). But at the same time, you say て形, which makes me think that the -te form is also a 活用形 (but it's not, right?). Does then the kanji 形 represent another grammar object apart from the 6 conjugated forms? Apart from that, I wonder if I can say ば形、なかった形、たり形、etc. ?
    • You say
      It’s either 現在 (非過去) or 過去
      I thought that it was called 非過去 because the category included present (現在) and future (未来). Are the words 非過去 and 現在 equivalent (grammatically speaking, in the sense of tense)?
    Thanks for taking time to read my text, I have tried my best to expose my doubts clearly.

    Best wishes,
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